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Cheaper, Lighter, Quieter: The Electrification of Flight Is at Hand

Our small electric plane, which uses light and powerful batteries and motors, is less costly than its gasoline-engine rivals

10 min read
photo of electric plane
Photo: Bye Aerospace

When you first sit in the cockpit of an electric-powered airplane, you see nothing out of the ordinary. However, touch the Start button and it strikes you immediately: an eerie silence. There is no roar, no engine vibration, just the hum of electricity and the soft whoosh of the propeller. You can converse easily with the person in the next seat, without headphones. The silence is a boon to both those in the cockpit and those on the ground below.

You rev the motor not with a throttle but a rheostat, and its high torque, available over a magnificently wide band of motor speeds, is conveyed to the propeller directly, with no power-sapping transmission. At 20 kilograms (45 pounds), the motor can be held in two hands, and it measures only 10 centimeters deep and 30 cm in diameter. An equivalent internal-combustion engine weighs about seven times as much and occupies some 120 by 90 by 90 cm. In part because of the motor’s wonderful efficiency—it turns 95 percent of its electrical energy directly into work—an hour’s flight in this electric plane consumes just US $3 worth of electricity, versus $40 worth of gasoline in a single-engine airplane. With one moving part in the electric motor, e-planes also cost less to maintain and, in the two-seater category, less to buy in the first place.

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New EV Prototype Leaves Range Anxiety in the Dust

Mercedes-Benz's Vision EQXX completed a record-breaking 747-mile run in May

5 min read
a silver car driving down the road with a mountain of switchbacks behind it

The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX

Mercedes-Benz

Not long ago, a 300-mile range seemed like a healthy target for electric cars. More recently, the 520-mile (837-kilometer) Lucid Air became the world’s longest-range EV. But that record may not stand for long.

The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX, and its showroom-bound tech, looks to banish range anxiety for good: In April, the sleek prototype sedan completed a 621-mile (1,000-kilometer) trek through the Alps from Mercedes’ Sindelfingen facility to the Côte d'Azur in Cassis, France with battery juice to spare. It built on that feat in late May, when the prototype covered a world-beating, bladder-busting 747 miles (1,202 kilometers) in a run from Germany to the Formula One circuit in Silverstone, U.K.

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Artificial Synapses 10,000x Faster Than Real Thing

New protonic programmable resistors may help speed learning in deep neural networks

3 min read
Conceptual illustration shows a brain shape made of circuits on a multilayered chip structure.
Ella Maru Studio and Murat Onen

New artificial versions of the neurons and synapses in the human brain are up to 1,000 times smaller than neurons and at least 10,000 times faster than biological synapses, a study now finds.

These new devices may help improve the speed at which the increasingly common and powerful artificial intelligence systems known as deep neural networks learn, researchers say.

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Take the Lead on Satellite Design Using Digital Engineering

Learn how to accelerate your satellite design process and reduce risk and costs with model-based engineering methods

1 min read
Keysight
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